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Is construction site recycling worth the effort?


Waste Not

Did you know construction and demolition waste are the largest sources of trash in the United States, accounting for roughly 325 million tons of recoverable waste each year [source: Construction Materials Recycling Association]? Did you also know that construction sites use 40 percent of all raw materials that Americans consume annually, including steel, concrete, glass and wood [source: Lennon]?

There are two ways to recycle at a job site: commingling and source separation. Each has its benefits and problems. Commingling, or mixing recycled items together, allows workers to quickly throw debris into one bin, saving time and cutting down on the number of recycling containers on the job site. However, construction companies have to pay a processing center to separate the waste [source: Lennon].

The second type, source separation, is often the best way to recycle on the job. Source separation involves sorting out construction material by hand and tossing the waste into individual bins. Although it's more complex than commingling, source separation allows builders to recycle at higher rates and at lower prices. That's because builders can ship the trash directly to market, eliminating the expense of hiring a processor to sort the material. In addition, hand-separated debris is generally worth more than commingled trash because the hand-separated debris contains fewer contaminants.

There are disadvantages to source separation, however. In addition to being more difficult and time-intensive, a bevy of recycling containers can clog up small worksites. Plus, each of those containers has to go to a specific recycling center, creating more logistical work for project managers [source: Lennon].


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